German seniors on trial for kidnapping their banker

Mon Feb 8, 2010 1:08pm EST
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BERLIN (Reuters) - Four elderly Germans went on trial on Monday charged with kidnapping their financial adviser and holding him prisoner in a basement in an attempt to recover 2.5 million euros in lost savings, a court spokesman said.

They are accused of seizing the financial adviser, a 56-year-old man, outside his apartment in the western town of Speyer, binding and gagging him and bundling him into the boot of a car before driving him some 500 km (300 miles) to the Bavarian town of Chieming.

There they tried to force him to transfer large sums of money to them. The banker tried to escape but suffered two broken ribs from one of those charged, a 74-year-old man.

In one remittance order the banker included the message "Sell 100 Call Pol.ICE today please!." A bank employee notified police and the banker was freed by an elite commando group.

The 74-year-old man charged with being the ringleader denied kidnapping. He said they had invited the man for a "few days holiday in Bavaria."

Defense attorney Harald Baumgaertl told ARD television it was an act of desperation.

"They feared there was no legal way to get their money back and so they did what one should not do -- committed a crime."

Prosecutors in the Bavarian town of Traunstein have charged the senior citizens -- aged 60 to 79 -- with kidnapping and complicity. They face jail terms of 5 to 15 years if convicted, state prosecutor Guenther Hammerdinger told ARD television.

(Reporting by Erik Kirschbaum; editing by Ralph Boulton)